17 July 2008

Randon Veggie Links--Chicago edition

Chicago, Chicago, that toddling town. A town that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down. It's also a town for meat and potato people. Luckily the City of Big Shoulders, bigger steaks and giant personalities also has plenty of options for vegetarian grazing.

  • Blind Faith Cafe -- Technically, it's in Evanston, but the Blind Faith Cafe is definitely one of the area's finest vegetarian eateries. They offer an international selection of delicious vegetarian and vegan items for take-out or dine-in.
  • Chicago Diner -- This is a vegetarian diner that offers brunch, lunch and dinner. They have sandwiches, soups, salads, appetizers, vegan milkshakes and desserts.
  • Alice and Friends -- A&F is a fantastic vegetarian/vegan eatery offering various Asian cuisines. It's on Chicago's far north end, and it's very much worth the trip.
  • Flying Saucer -- Another of the Windy City's many veggie-friendly diners can be found in Humboldt Park. Although it isn't vegetarian-only like the other three establishments, Flying Saucer makes a ton of meatless breakfast options, as well as other vegetarian sandwiches and assorted comfort food.

There many places that also specialize in fresh food fast (as opposed to fast food). Some are more fast-casual, some are a convenient part of another establishment, but all are great.

  • Pita Inn -- I like Aladdin's as much as the next guy, but Aladdin's is a national chain that isn't specific to Chicagoland. Pita Inn, on the other hand, has three locations in the suburbs, and all of them churn out hummus, baba, falafel and the most delicious harissa (a spicy Middle Eastern pepper paste) for the hungry crowds.
  • The Handlebar -- A bicycle-themed bar with a peloton-sized entourage of vegetarian menu items. They also have plenty of drinks for thirsty bike riders.
  • Twisted Spoke -- Unlike Handlebar, the theme at Twisted Spoke involves bikes with Harley-Davidson emblazoned on the gas tank. They also have tons of vegetarian menu items, and if that isn't hardcore enough for you, stick around Saturday nights for Smut and Eggs, where you can watch porn and eat brunch (again, I'm a sucker for great concepts).
  • Bite -- Located adjacent to the esteemed concert venue The Empty Bottle, Bite is a cool vegetarian-friendly spot to eat before, during or after catching a great show in the North Ukrainian Village area. I couldn't even begin to describe how much falafel I ate before the Tuesday night jazz shows when they were a regular feature at the Bottle.

There are also a few places noted for things other than vegetarian food that also happen to offer great vegetarian items like beer. Go for the great food and stay for the brews.

  • Goose Island -- Chicago's best known brewery also happens to make a great veggie burger. Try the veggie burger and stick around for the seasonal brews.
  • Hopleaf -- Sorry to the other contenders for the title, but Chicago's best beer bar (according to my unofficial tally) also has a cool menu with a few vegetarian options.
  • Flatlander's -- This Lincolnshire brew pub combines great beer, great food and a great atmosphere into a winner with more than a few vegetarian options.

A few other places are destinations for vegetarians. Sorry I can't include them all, but you can't go wrong with any of these choices.

  • Karyn's -- Karyn Calabrese offers raw food and a number of other lifestyle choices for the discerning gourmet.
  • Green Zebra -- While not entirely vegetarian, Shawn McClain's Green Zebra celebrates fresh produce with the menu, so this fine dining establishment should please vegetarians of all stripes.
  • Alinea -- It isn't a specifically vegetarian place, but if you ask nicely, I'm sure Grant Achatz will blow your mind with a stunning display of vegetarian wizardry.

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